Among the hundred or so guests mingling in the afterglow of President Obama’s Irish reception at the White House was CIA chief John O. Brennan, the son of an immigrant father from Roscommon who fondly remembered his trip back there with his dad Owen to celebrate the Gathering in 2013.
Speaking at that reunion, Brennan said: “My family and I are part of the great Irish diaspora.
“My father passed down to his family the strong values of family, community, love of nation and love of God.”
Close by, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was holding court with a group of relatives from Galway and the old sod. His grandparents came from the Connemara Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) in Galway and he retains a close affinity with Ireland.
The man considered by many the closest of all to Obama certainly enjoys his Irish heritage,
Across the room was Chief Justice John Roberts and wife Jane who have an Irish vacation home they regularly visit.
In a profile in Newsweek in 2012 Roberts described himself as a “raucous Irish dancer” and said ceili or Irish set dancing is how he unwinds from his hectic schedule at the court.
The profile by Daniel Klaidman stated that Roberts was introduced to Irish dancing by his wife, Jane Sullivan, a first generation Irish American from the Bronx, whose mother comes from Cork.
Sullivan is a highly successful lawyer who is “deeply attuned to her Gaelic roots and Catholic faith.”
On this St. Patrick’s Day Jane was recalling her Bronx upbringing and the era long ago when the daughter of Cork immigrants played Irish games and lived a life among recent immigrants that closely resembled life in Ireland.
Not far away was former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has also become a frequent visitor at the embassy.
I was told Speaker Boehner had been there earlier, but I did not see him.
Various other dignitaries, including Irish leader Enda Kenny, were scattered across the room. Kenny was holding court with a gaggle of congressmen as gracious host Anne Anderson, the Irish Ambassador, made new arrivals feel comfortable.
There were probably many more from the Washington power structure there and my visit was brief.
Suffice to say that any other embassy would have given their eye teeth for the caliber of American leaders attending the Irish Embassy apres.
A day that saw the Irish leader feted – first in Congress at the Speaker's lunch and later at the White House – and then hosting powerful Washington leaders shows exactly how this diaspora thing works.
The sad part is that back in Ireland there are many who consider the American and global trips at the St. Patrick’s time of year a waste of time.
To call such a view parochial is to underestimate its essential idiocy. The Irish have a powerful reach in America. This St. Pat’s proved it once more.
Long may it prosper.